Our dogs really are family members… almost like our children if we’re being honest. And like our children, health is a primary concern. One of the behaviours that indicates a problem to us is when our dogs gag. So if you’re wondering why your dog keeps gagging, the following list may provide potential answers.
I should note up front that most times dogs gag, the reason why will be mostly innocuous. However, there are some occasions where gagging indicates a bigger problems requiring veterinary attention.
Table of Contents
- What is Gagging and Why Does My Dog Do It?
- Why Does My Dog Keep Gagging?
- What Should You Do If Your Dog Keeps Gagging?
- Related Posts
What is Gagging and Why Does My Dog Keep Doing It?
Gagging is an entirely normal response to something troubling a dog. Oftentimes it’s something that occurs seemingly spontaneously and ends just as quickly.
Although a gagging episode is often accompanied by coughing, it doesn’t always indicate a major medical problem, even though it can appear quite distressing for your dog.
It can of course also be a distressing experience for you.
That said, there are occasions where it can indicate something more ominous, especially if your dog keeps gagging and coughing and you can’t determine a reason why.
Why Does My Dog Keep Gagging?
The following list then provides a number of reasons as to why dogs gag. It covers issues that aren’t at all serious, as well as some others that require veterinary attention.
Eating and Drinking Too Quickly
Sometimes dogs can be very messy eaters and drinkers. For example, my Whippet Misty is so eager to eat or drink that she almost forgets to swallow.
This unfortunately leads to her inhaling rather than swallowing, and when this happens, she’ll start gagging.
If your dog keeps gagging because they are eating or drinking too quickly, try giving them less food in one sitting. You may need to top up their food several times, but this might help to stop them eating too quickly and gagging and coughing as a consequence.
When dogs are nauseous or on the verge of being sick, they may begin gagging. Sometimes an irritation can make them cough and gag, and this may or may not lead to actual vomiting. Other times a dog can gag after vomiting.
All dogs gag, cough and vomit occasionally, especially if they eat something they shouldn’t. As a rule, as long as it’s not something like a poisonous houseplant, this is nothing to be overly concerned about.
However, if it consumes something a dog shouldn’t eat, or if vomiting continues over a prolonged period, my advice would be to speak with a veterinary professional as soon as you can.
Like an over-excited child on its birthday, dogs that get too excited can start gagging.
Perhaps they lose themselves whenever anyone returns home? Or maybe too many emotions kick in when out meeting other dogs so the overhype themself and get the zoomies?
Whatever the stimulus, it’s good to understand the causes of anything that gets your dog over-excited so you can try to calm them down before the gagging starts!
You’ll know how unpleasant it is when something gets stuck in your throat. If a dog tries to swallow something larger than it should, it can easily become stuck in its throat and cause it to gag. If the object won’t shift, it’s likely your dog will keep gagging until it’s dislodged.
Food, small toys and most notoriously sticks (or bits that have broken off of sticks) can all get stuck in a dog’s throat, causing distress and triggering coughing and gagging to try to get it out.
If your dog gets something stuck in its throat, take them to a veterinary professional and have them remove it safely.
Rhinitis & Sinusitis
An inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nose, rhinitis (like laryngitis) is often caused by bacterial or viral infection (though it can be fungal too) and can also be triggered by seasonal allergies.
Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses and this also may be viral or bacterial.
The problem with both of these conditions is twofold:
- They cause nasal congestion, whereby mucus and nasal discharge may lead to gagging, coughing or reverse sneezing
- They can’t filter dust and microorganisms to prevent them from entering the lungs.
Both conditions also give rise to other unpleasant symptoms for dogs such as:
- Watery eyes
- Nasal discharge
- Laboured breathing
The good news is that most cases of rhinitis and sinusitis are easily treated… once again, contact a veterinarian if your dog has symptoms of either condition.
Laryngitis is a painful and potentially serious condition, whereby the larynx becomes swollen and inflamed. It can occur for a number of reasons, such as:
- Infection of the upper respiratory tract
- Excessive barking or panting
- Foreign objects
- Allergic reactions
If severe, the swelling in the larynx can obstruct the upper airway making breathing difficult and creating irritation that can lead to gagging and coughing, which is one of the first signs of laryngitis.
If your dog develops a dry cough or starts coughing and gagging excessively, contact your veterinary practice.
Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It is most often caused by bacterial, viral or parasitic infection but it can even be triggered by foods.
Gastroenteritis affects the stomach and intestines, so you might reasonably expect symptoms to be:
- Stomach pain or cramps
- Vomiting a foamy and yellow-green coloured bile
- Increased temperature
As it triggers nausea and vomiting, it’s not unusual for affected dogs to dry heave and gag after eating or drinking.
If you believe your dog has gastroenteritis, and especially if it has symptoms such as blood in its vomit or stool, contact your veterinary centre as soon as possible. Happily most cases of gastroenteritis are cured within a few days.
Parasites cause not only gastroenteritis, but they can create a host of other problems for dogs… and gagging, coughing or both may be one symptom.
Roundworms, for example, are particularly unpleasant.
Firstly, roundworms can infect dogs that eat poop… or more specifically, dogs that eat the poop of an infected animal. Roundworms spread via faeces so poop eaters are more at risk of catching them than dogs that don’t.
Additionally, dogs can catch roundworms by eating an animal infected by them, such as mice, birds and even earthworms.
Finally, roundworms can be passed by an infected mother to her pups through her milk.
Some of the symptoms of roundworms are often:
- Stomach pain
- Nausea, gagging and vomiting
- Visible signs of spaghetti-like worms in a dog’s stool
- Weight loss
Regular courses of worming tablets prevent dogs getting roundworm infestation. So check with your veterinary practice to ensure your pooch is up to date.
Kennel cough is another common cause of gagging in dogs. An extremely contagious canine illness, kennel cough is a chest infection that affects the respiratory system causing a hacking cough, mucus production and gagging.
It’s not normally dangerous for healthy dogs, but it can cause complications in older dogs and puppies. In most cases, kennel cough doesn’t require treatment, but infected dogs should be kept away from other dogs. As a rule the symptoms subside after a week or so.
Dogs can be vaccinated against kennel cough, which helps to reduce the likelihood of infection. However, vaccination doesn’t guarantee your dog won’t catch it as there are many different strains.
As with most things, if your dog keeps gagging and / or coughing for prolonged periods, speak to a veterinary professional.
More commonly occurring in smaller dog breeds, such as Chihuahuas, tracheal collapse occurs when the rings of cartilage in the trachea become weakened. When this happens the windpipe literally collapses when inhaling, which makes breathing extremely difficult,
Dogs that suffer from tracheal collapse keep gagging and the condition is one that becomes worse as time passes. Sadly there isn’t a cure for the condition but there are strategies to help manage it.
As this is a life limiting condition, you should seek veterinary advice as soon as possible if your dog keeps gagging when inhaling and there’s no apparent reason why.
Another condition causing coughing and gagging in dogs is laryngeal paralysis, which is a disease of the upper airway.
Normally affecting large dog breeds from middle-age onwards, it’s a disease that inhibits the function of the cartilage in the larynx when breathing.
Primary symptoms can be difficult to detect but as the disease progresses (usually over months or years) a dry cough, loud breathing and shortness of breath during activity often manifest. Additionally, it’s not at all uncommon for affected dogs to gag and vomit.
If your dog seems at all distressed when breathing, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Bloat is an extremely serious medical condition that affects a dog’s stomach. In fact, it’s so serious that it requires emergency treatment as quickly as possible.
Otherwise known as Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, bloat occurs when a dog‘s stomach gets twisted in a manner that stops blood supply to the heart and spleen, and prevents food and gas from passing through the digestive system.
Some of the symptoms of bloat are:
- Dry heaving and gagging
- Stomach distension
- Abdominal pain
As you might imagine, it’s a painful and distressing condition for dogs, and sadly it’s one that can lead to death within a few hours if it’s not treated.
Naturally it’s imperative to head to an emergency veterinary centre immediately if your dog keeps gagging while displaying other symptoms of bloat.
Pneumonia is a condition affecting the lungs that causes inflammation of airways, alveoli and pulmonary tissues. Inflammation is often the response to infection or aspiration of gastric contents.
Some symptoms of pneumonia are:
- Coughing deeply
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite
- High temperature
If your dog keeps gagging and coughing and exhibits pneumonia-like symptoms, the best course of action is to speak to a veterinarian as soon as you can.
Pneumonia can be a very serious illness for dogs but it can be treated… and the earlier it’s caught, the better.
As a general rule, heart disease is usually not something that affects younger dogs, so don’t jump to conclusions if your 2 year old pup keeps gagging without other symptoms such as:
- Rapid or shallow breathing
- Coughing (with or without blood)
- Loss of consciousness
- Bluish skin
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal swelling
If your dog is gagging and having difficulty breathing for a prolonged period, you should seek veterinary attention immediately.
What Should You Do If Your Dog Keeps Gagging?
Often it’s extremely distressing to see your dog gagging and sometimes it feels as though it must be serious.
Unfortunately, dogs being dogs, it’s not uncommon at all for them to cough, gag and even vomit sometimes… they eat nasty things occasionally that just need to be expelled so that normal service can resume!
However, if your dog keeps gagging without vomiting, or if the gagging accompanies other symptoms such as coughing, drooling, discharge from the nose, lethargy, high temperature, panting or difficulty breathing you should always seek veterinary advice.
Most times your dog will be okay, but it never hurts to check with a veterinarian if you’re in any doubt at all about your dog’s gagging.
One note to prevent potential gagging… keep your dog’s worming treatments up to date and don’t let them chew sticks that can splinter and cause irritation.
Summary: Why Does My Dog Keep Gagging?
There are many reasons why your dog could be gagging and in most cases it will be something that comes and goes relatively quickly.
However, if your dog keeps gagging over prolonged periods, and you can find no explanation as to why, make an appointment with a veterinary specialist.
Have you ever had a situation where your dog was gagging for long periods or perhaps you have a comment to add on this subject? If so, please use the comment form at the bottom of this page.
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